DETROIT: Director Kathryn Bigelow’s (THE HURT LOCKER) movies have centered around people under extreme pressure in foreign war zones. But she stays much closer to home in this dramatization of the 1967 race riots which literally inflamed the Motor City for several days. There’s no shortage of irony in the anarchy being triggered by a police raid at a party for a returning Vietnam veteran (Michael Jibrin) at an unlicensed bar. The film’s centerpiece, though, is an intense confrontation by city cops with guests at the downtown Algiers Motel where three black youths wound up being killed. The action is rapidly well-paced with actual footage from the riots interspersed with the film’s urban landscape which looks and feels very much like the powderkeg that it was. Hand-held camerawork gives the movie a pretty compelling “you are there” feeling. Although screenwriter Mark Boal doesn’t have a handle on late ‘60s language, his script is mostly objective and unbiased with known facts from the events making their way into his written dialogue. There isn’t that much in the way of character development except for a wannabe rhythm and blues singer (Algee Smith) who’s artistically savaged and ultimately transformed by his run-in with police. He’s backed by stellar performances from John Boyega (STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS) who beautifully underplays his role as a security guard and Will Poulter (WE’RE THE MILLERS) as a sadistic, vicious cop who resembles Alfred E. Neumann’s evil twin. Occasionally, I detected some tell-tale traces of “white person’s guilt” but ultimately the movie’s main storyline boils down to an incredibly stupid prank by a black teenager (Jason Mitchell) that leads to an incredibly violent overreaction by white police officers. There were a couple of sequences that had me wondering about the work’s accuracy, like the state police bailing out because they want no part of “a civil rights mix-up” (Really? Seriously?). But even with its flaws, the movie is consistently absorbing if somewhat overlong owing to some momentum killing trial scenes. I have to acknowledge, too, that the film benefits greatly from its troubling timeliness when we’re seeing and hearing dashcam videos of young, deferential black men being shot in front of their children by policemen in a climate where an American President encourages police brutality. But even if you cast all that aside, DETROIT remains an uncompromising work about racial divides which still are festering in a culture that seems to demand that one choose between being pro-black or pro-cop. CRITIC’S GRADE: B